Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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December 8, 2004 -- Number 79, Volume 2

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 1. PETA Investigation Prompts Changes at Kosher Slaughterhouse

Kosher authorities and agricultural officials strongly criticized Agriprocessors, Inc., a slaughterhouse in Iowa, for violating kosher laws and mistreating cows. The criticisms come after officials viewed footage from an undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), as covered in FAW #78. Officials from the Orthodox Union, the world's largest supervisory group relating to kosher products, originally supported the company by asserting that kosher law had not been violated. However, after several rabbis visited the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse and others viewed the video, the Orthodox Union said it will require two changes at the facility. First, the workers will not be allowed to speed up death by preemptively pulling out the slaughtered animal's trachea; second, the union said it would investigate ways to "kill or stun cows that are still walking even after the initial stage of slaughtering." The Orthodox Union's reversal of opinion came after Israel's Chief Rabbinate stated publicly that the video showed deviations from kosher law.

In addition to kosher officials, agricultural authorities including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are also investigating the slaughterhouse. PETA has filed an official complaint with the USDA, saying that the video shows that Agriprocessors violated the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Locally, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture says she would close and investigate the facility if her department had authority to do so, which it does not. The secretary said of the undercover video, "It's disturbing. Certainly it's nothing I would condone, or any of my meat inspectors or veterinarians would condone."

"Ag Secretary Judge: Postville Slaughter Video is 'Disturbing'," Globe Gazette, 12/7/04

"After Anger from Animal Activists, Kosher Slaughterhouse to Change," JTA Global News Service, 12/7/04

"Kosher Authority Asks Slaughterhouse to Change Killing Methods,", 12/6/04

"Not Kosher: Rabbinate Backs PETA," The Jerusalem Post, 12/2/04

 2. Pig Welfare: Lameness; Group Housing; Research Bibliography

Scientific research concerning the physiology and welfare of farmed pigs provides several interesting findings related to lameness and group versus individual housing. First, North Carolina State University researchers discovered that "structural unsoundness" accounts for 16% of culled pigs and 7% of the loss of "finisher" pigs to early death. Structural unsoundness refers primarily to feet- and leg-related issues and is caused by several factors, including the individual pig's genetics, production, gender, feed quality, floor surface, and space. Second, researchers in Canada recommend that producers use individual stalls for sows during early pregnancy, and move them to group housing for the rest of the gestation period. The lead scientist says that no single system addresses all of the five key factors for housing of gestating sows, including freedom of movement and freedom from aggression, among others. Finally, the industry-oriented "Pig Site" maintains a comprehensive bibliography of research relating to pig welfare, with a focus on veterinary information. The bibliography can be accessed here:

"Factors that Affect Feet and Leg Soundness," The PigSite, Nov-2004

"Combination of Stalls and Group Housing Recommended for Housing Gestating Sows," Farmscape #1656, 11/30/04

 3. Surprise Nominee for US Agriculture Secretary Gets Favorable Response

Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns has been selected by George W. Bush to be the next US Secretary of Agriculture, replacing outgoing secretary Ann Veneman. Johanns, who grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa and has been Nebraska's Governor for two years, was a surprise choice for many observers. During his tenure as governor, Johanns has been a strong supporter of alternative energies derived from farming processes, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Those actions and his support of local animal protection groups earned Johanns an endorsement from the world's largest animal protection organization, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). According to a HSUS press release, "Gov. Johanns served on the board of directors of the Capital Humane Society in Lincoln, Nebraska and has a record of supporting animal protection efforts as governor and in other elected offices." Industry representatives gave similarly favorable, albeit more subdued reactions to Johanns, whose nomination is subject to US Senate confirmation.

"Reaction to Johanns Nomination Mixed,", 12/3/04

"The HSUS Encouraged By President Bush's Selection for Agriculture Secretary," HSUS, 12/2/04 (HSUS website)

"Bush Goes to Farm Belt for New Agriculture Secretary," Reuters, 11/2/04

 4. Farmers and Meatpackers Face Environmental Regulations, Lawsuits

In FAW #78 we reported on the growing threat to air and water quality from pollution caused by industrial agriculture overall, and concentrated animal farming in particular. Two recent articles describe instances where a state government and a federal agency are responding to the threat by targeting farmers and meat producers. In Washington State, the Department of Ecology has proposed new regulations for large-scale feedlots. They require feedlot operations to prove they are not polluting waterways prior to being granted operational permits. A similar regulation has been in place for dairy farms for about a decade, but feedlots have not been included until now. The new requirements are mandated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the Clean Water Act. In a separate matter, the EPA is suing Agriprocessors, the same kosher slaughterhouse that was the subject of PETA's undercover investigation and a current USDA probe (see item #1 above). The EPA's lawsuit claims that Agriprocessors repeatedly violated the Clean Water Act by exceeding pollution limits at its Postville, Iowa facility. The EPA further alleges that water pollution from the Agriprocessors facility caused the city of Postville to violate its wastewater discharge permit.

"Feedlots Face New Regulations," Tri-City Herald, 12/2/04

"EPA Sues Postville Meatpacker," Des Moines Register / Associated Press, 12/2/04

 5. Consumer News: Wasted Food in the US; Red Meat and Arthritis; Food Safety

WASTED FOOD: Researchers from the University of Arizona have released a study suggesting that 40-50% of the food produced in the US is never eaten, and most of it is thrown away. The findings include waste throughout the food production process, in addition to consumer waste. The 10-year USDA-sponsored study indicates that the average US household wastes 14% of its food purchases, or about $590 per year.

RED MEAT AND ARTHRITIS: Researchers from the University of Manchester (UK) have published a study showing that daily consumption of red meat dramatically increases one's risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The article published in the journal "Arthritis and Rheumatism" is based on 25,000 people. It suggests that those who consume red meat on a daily basis have double the risk of developing arthritis than do those who consume red meat less frequently or not at all.

FOOD SAFETY: The Consumers Union, publisher of "Consumer Reports," has released a new study and launched a campaign to convince the USDA to strengthen producer requirements for food safety. The website provides tools for concerned consumers to take action, while the report details the food safety issues surrounding the feeding and medication of "beef" cows, chickens, and farmed versus wild-caught fish.

"Half of US Food Goes to Waste," Food Production Daily, 11/25/04

"Red Meat Link to Arthritis Risk," BBC News, 12/3/04

"Consumers Union Launches Food-Safety Web Site,", 12/8/04

Consumers Union website:
Consumers Union report, "You Are What They Eat":

 6. Other Items of Interest

According to Farm Sanctuary, two new bills have been filed in Massachusetts, including a proposed law to ban the production and sale of foie gras by force-feeding birds and a separate bill to ban the use of veal and gestation crates. Both issues will be addressed in the upcoming state legislative session.
"New Legislation in Massachusetts Seeks to Protect Farmed Animals," Farm Sanctuary's E-News, 12/4/04

A group of scientists analyzed the chicken genome and found that chickens share 60% of the same protein-coding genes as humans. Results from the study, funded by USDA and carried out in part by researchers from the University of California - Davis, will be published in the December 9 issue of the journal "Nature."

"Chicken Genome Analysis Unlocks Secrets of Mammalian and Bird Evolution," Eureka Alert, 12/8/04

UK: A small farm in southern England had hundreds of organically-raised geese and about twenty ducks stolen from their facility prior to the birds being slaughtered for Christmas holiday sales.

"Hundreds of Geese Stolen from British Farm,", 12/7/04

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 6 released its final rule requiring food companies to establish and maintain records to help secure the food supply. The FDA fact sheet (see below) provides an overview of the different regulations covering different types of food, including animal-based foods.

"Final Rule Issued on Records Needed to Protect Food Supply," FDA News, 12/6/04
Also see: FDA Fact Sheet -

In This Issue

  1. PETA Investigation Prompts Changes at Kosher Slaughterhouse

  2. Pig Welfare: Lameness; Group Housing; Research Bibliography

  3. Surprise Nominee for US Agriculture Secretary Gets Favorable Response

  4. Farmers and Meatpackers Face Environmental Regulations, Lawsuits

  5. Consumer News: Wasted Food in the US; Red Meat and Arthritis; Food Safety

  6. Other Items of Interest

Our Sponsors

Animal Place

Animal Welfare Trust

Farm Sanctuary

The Fund for Animals

Glaser Progress Foundation

Humane Society of the United States

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals


Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.